Craig Johnson is the guest of honor at Crime Bake this year. Reading his books and watching Longmire has made me reminisce about the six years I lived in Cheyenne. I might not have lived on a ranch but I’ve been to more than one. I might not have roped a cow but I’ve been to the rodeo. I know about jackalope, buckle bunnies, and chinook winds. I’ve been to Chugwater and heard their band.
Through a series of life events I ended up living in Cheyenne. Elevation: 6062 feet (higher than the Mile High City – Denver) Population: 50,000 or thereabouts when I lived there. To an Iowa girl it was a lot of shades of brown, antelope, tumbleweeds and yes cowboys. I learned to two-step at the Cheyenne Club. I threw myself into the Frontier Days activities the last full week of July every year. You might be a city slicker but you can’t help but find a little bit of cowboy in you when you live in Wyoming.
Wyoming isn’t for the weak of heart. The wind blows hard across the state and grit often ends up in your mouth. I learned to hang on to the car door when I opened it because the wind might have ideas about what it wants to do with it. My mom called me one morning when the windchill was 70 below — she lived in Florida. “Do you have to go to work?” she asked. The answer was yes. I worked for a financial planning company and the market was open. Life in Wyoming goes on windchill or not.
I missed trees and made friends. I worked my way up the corporate ladder. I wore suits not boots. I traveled around the state Rock Springs, Pinedale, Jackson Hole, Sheridan, Buffalo, Casper. All so different so beautiful in their own way. I met and married my husband in Cheyenne.
It snowed mid May one year, it snowed mid September. I don’t remember a Halloween while I lived there that it didn’t snow. Trick or Treat at the mall was a big deal because kids could take their snowsuits off and show off their costumes.
One snow storm was particularly bad. My husband and I had been visiting his parent’s in Idaho. The storm chased us all the way across the state, big flakes flew by as we kept the dark, rolling clouds in the rearview mirror. Gates closed behind us on Interstate 80 as they shut it down. We made it home, barely, before the storm hit. The next three days Bob drove his old International Harvester four-wheel drive around town picking up my coworkers as the town dug out.
I’ve been through whiteouts, a tornado, a 100 year flood in Wyoming. And hail. Cheyenne is the start of a section of the country known as “Hail Alley”. But the sun shines almost every day. It warmed my car so much in the winter I’d have to take my winter coat off before I got in or I’d fry. The skies are large, vast.
I was very active in the community: served on boards, ran marketing campaigns for various causes, I even taught an adult learning class at the community college. You might be thinking this hardly makes me a cowboy. But a few days before we left Cheyenne to move to Los Angeles I received this certificate from then Governor Mike Sullivan saying I’m a bona fide Cowboy.
Readers: Do you have a little bit of cowboy in you?